THE STATHEAD BLOGGER RITE OF PASSAGE
Now, I was ready to go ahead and write an article about the rumor Will Carrol might be revealing to the public sometime soon. So I figured, if I'm going to do this I want to give a prediction as to what the outcome will be. Knowing this I felt like I should head over to ESPN and see what my choices were for my prediction. Then something happened. I stumbled across an article by Phil Rogers. Now Phil is a columnist that has been beaten up by many a blogger and I never felt like I would do this type of post, but his article just struck me as too poor to be ignored, and I HAD to get my opinions about it off my chest.
One of the initial statements by Rogers that caught my eye was that "Rodriguez is languishing on a free-agent market that has rewarded many lesser players", that within itself I have no problem with. After all, there ARE players lesser than Rodriguez than have been signed. My problem comes with what he intimates next, that that list of lesser players includes Miguel Tejada, Gary Sheffield, and Keith Foulke. The evidence for Tejada being less than Rodriguez is that Tejada is "arguably the fourth-best shortstop in his league". What Mr. Rogers is making sure to do here is alert us that Tejada already received free agent compensation and he's not that good, in fact, he's so not that good that he doesn't even rank within the top 3 in his own league, much less the entire majors.
This is pretty faulty logic for a few reasons. One is that sighting the league when comparing shortstops pigeonholes good shortstops in the American League because some guys named Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, and Nomar Garciaparra. For those keeping score at home, Rodriguez has a career 144 OPS+, Nomah has a 135 career OPS+, and Jeter has a 122 career OPS+. Aside from being great hitters, one is a good defensive player, one is a very good defensive player, and one has played on several championship teams. Between them they have 1 AL MVP, 3 Batting titles, 2 Gold Gloves, 2 Rookie of the Year awards, 1 All Star Game MVP, and 1 World Series MVP. Basically, they are just great and 3 of the best to ever play the shortstop position. Tejada is no slouch either, he is an above average hitter and an above average fielder. He is a good baseball player, however, by playing in the American League he is playing in the shadow of 3 all time great shortstops. Were Tejada in the National League he would undoubtedly be the best all around shortstop in that league, so his standing within the American League is no fault of his own, neither should it be an indictment of his talent.
Now, if Rogers is calling out Tejada for not ranking that great amongst fellow shortstops, and I would say he is about 4th overall, then Pudge must rank really high. Let's find out. Amongst everyday backstops, Ivan Rodriguez's rank in EQA last year was tied for 3rd amongst catchers:
Lopez .337 174
Posada .318 146
Rodriguez .293 124
Varitek .293 120
Not included in that list is Mike Piazza who hit for a .301 EQA and 124 OPS+ albeit in injury shortened playing time. What can we conclude from these stats? That Pudge was probably the 3rd best hitting catcher in all of baseball last season, with another catcher vying for that third position with him. In addition to that, Mike Piazza outhit Rodriguez last year and is defined by being the "best hitting catcher ever" so I feel it is safe to say that Pudge is tied for fourth amongst catchers in offensive prowess. I do not feel defense is an important part of being a catcher so I will disregard that for now. So, basically what we have here is Rodriguez is tied for the fourth spot amongst catchers. Hmmmm, Miguel Tejada is holding onto the fourth spot amongst shortstops yet that is not good enough, meanwhile, Pudge is tied for fourth amongst catchers and that IS good enough. I don't know about you, but I don't think that makes much logical sense.
After his words on Tejada, Mr. Rogers also has some not so nice words for Yankee offseason signee, Gary Sheffield. Instead of attacking Sheffield's production, Phil goes after him for being "a noted knucklehead old enough to run for the U.S. Senate". There are two obvious points being made about Sheffield's signing here, one is that he has character flaws that prove detrimental to a team's success and the other is that his age is an issue. I have not followed the personal aspects of Gary Sheffield's career close enough to know exactly what Rogers is referring to, but since Pudge was an American Leaguer for so long and I am a Yankees fan, there IS something I know about him. In the past, Pudge has been noted for frequently calling fastballs in order to have a better pitch to throw out potential baserunners on and improve that aspect of his numbers, if that is not a "knucklehead" activity to partake in, I don't know what is. In regards to Sheffield's age, let's look at some numbers:
On the left, you have Gary Sheffield's OPS+ over the last 4 years, on the right you have Ivan Rodriguez's OPS+ over the last 4 years. From this we can gather that despite aging, both players have managed to pretty much maintain their offensive performance so they are even in that regard. However, hidden within that is that over the same 4 year stretch Gary Sheffield has played a total of 574 games, or 144 per year, Ivan Rodriguez has played a total of 454 games, or 114 per year, THAT is what I call a significant difference. During that time Pudge has suffered severe season ending injuries while Sheffield has stayed away from that. While Sheffield is 4 years older, this age difference is skewed because Pudge plays a more physically demanding position and has logged an incredible amount of innings at that position so in actual baseball mileage I would call them at least equal. Now if you have two players, equal in mileage, both having character issues, but one has proven to be significantly healthier than the other, and is willing to accept a 3 year deal versus vehemently seeking a 4 year deal, which player do you choose? That's right, you choose Gary Sheffield who is not a lesser player than Pudge in that they both have character questions and Sheffield gives less reason for age related worry.
The next player mentioned by Rogers in comparison to Pudge is Kieth Foulke, "a closer whose best pitch is a changeup". That statement, meant to indict Foulke is completely and utterly ridiculous. It is the equivalent of trying to downgrade A-Rod by saying he is "a shortstop who can hit" or even I-Rod by saying that he is "a catcher who can hit", simply ridiculous. Just because a player does something that is not conventional does not make them any less of a player, the name of the game is getting results and since 1999 his body of relief work matches up favorably to any relief pitcher in the game. Once again, it is not how you do the job, but THAT you do the job. Otherwise we would never have had the A-Rods and Piazzas of the world.
Personally, I find what Rogers does near the end of the article quite humorous. He states that "[d]uring the regular season, Florida's pitching staff had a 3.82 earned run average with him behind the plate and a 4.80 ERA without him". Of course, what Rogers means here is that by being behind the plate, Pudge's game calling allowed him to call for the perfect pitches to be thrown by the Marlins staff and their pitching success is attributable to him. All right, fine Mr. Rogers, if you want to believe that then fine. But wait, 5.35, 5.71, 5.20, those are Pudge's catcher ERA's from 2000-2002. Since he was so responsible for the success of Florida's pitching staff in 2003, then he must theoretically also be responsible for the failure of every Rangers pitching staff ever. What counts more, 2 seasons of a CERA (Catcher ERA) below 4 or 9 seasons of a CERA above 4.5? I'm thinking 9, and that would mean Ivan Rodriguez behind the plate is bad for a pitching staff, this is using Rogers' theories of course.
Before closing his article, Rogers engages in hyperbole. "He's played 13 years and never had a bad season. He's made every team he's been on better". That is in reference to Pudge of course. I would first like to ask how one would judge whether or not a player has made EVERY team he has been on better? Quite frankly, I am not sure, but the best I can come up with is that adding Pudge to a team makes them better than they were before he was added, well since Pudge has changed teams once there is only one example of this, that would be this past season's Marlins. Yes, they did in fact get better, but because of sample size issues with Rodriguez making teams better and because he was not the Marlins only addition, I have no way judging of this and I won't. Hopefully, Mr. Rogers sees this and can alert me as to how one would go about making such a judgment. More importantly however, Rogers said that Pudge has "never had a bad season". I am going to have to disagree with that statement, because when a player has OPS+'s of 75 and 88, I consider that a bad season, and that is what Rodriguez did in 1991 and 1992.
So, basically, what I am saying is that Phil Rogers is a horrible journalist who should never have been hired by ESPN. No, I'm joking. However, for Rogers to write an article touting Pudge as undeserving of not being signed by a team already, when considering his demands and track record is just a little far fetched, the "facts" and evidence he used to support his ideas were faulty. I had a problem with this, and I just felt particularly compelled to break down what he said. Happy New Year to all and remember, if you have questions, comments, suggestions: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wow, that was damn near Gleeman length, or Gleemanic if you will.
¶ 9:11 PM
Update coming sometime tonight, before midnight, last post of the year spectacular.
¶ 6:43 PM
Monday, December 29, 2003
Before the 2003 major league draft, some publications had Eric Duncan going as high as the 14th pick, then on draft day, he fell into the Yankees' lap, and they made sure to draft the bat they coveted. Duncan is currently 6'2'' and 195 pounds so I am not sure he has too much wiggle room to work with when it comes to adding muscle mass. He has "passable third-actions and an average arm, but is destined to end up at first base" according to Baseball America. Despite that, I will evaluate him as a 3B because some observers feel he can stay there, and his bat works a lot better there in my opinion.
.278/.348/.400(AVG/OBP/SLG) .257 GPA
.373/.413/.695(AVG/OBP/SLG) .342 GPA
The first line is Duncan's performance in the Rookie Level Gulf Coast League, where he was first assigned this summer. That line was compiled over the course of 201 plate appearances in a league where high school draft picks are commonly placed. The second line is Duncan's performance in the New York Penn League, where the Yankees promoted him after he went on a hot streak near the end of his GCL stint. That line was compiled over the course of 63 plate appearances, so it is a much smaller sample size. With that said, what did Duncan demonstrate as he hit .301/.364/.473 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with a .282 GPA overall this summer?
He showed that he can hit for average. He showed that he had at least decent plate patience, though it went away a little once he faced tougher competition, he showed that he can hit for power by sending 35% of his hits for extra bases. He also made good contact, only striking out in 18% of his at bats. In a very positive development, his K rate saw no increase with the change in levels. Basically, Duncan lived up to his expectations as a hitter, showing why scouts have compared him to Chipper Jones at the plate.
With most offensive queries answered positively at this point, Duncan just needs to work on his defense and make sure he can stick at third. If he can stick there, and hit anywhere close to the way Chipper did during his prime, then he could solve the Yankees' 3B woes for a long time. This potential makes Duncan an extremely exciting prospect that Yankee fans should definitely keep an eye on. At this point he looks like he can be a .300/.380/.500 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .296 GPA 3B, admittedly it is VERY early in the "game" and short season numbers are difficult to project.
*Sorry for the shorter than average post today, got college stuff to attend to. Once again, any questions, comments, suggestions, e-mail email@example.com
¶ 9:51 PM
Just got the Counter up on the right hand side of the screen, this could be deflating...I'll be back with another spectacular most sometime soon, and by sometime soon I mean I have a lot of matters to attend to and am not quite sure when I will be able to do it. Hopefully tonight, check back later.
¶ 4:43 PM
Sunday, December 28, 2003
KEEP AN EYE ON
I highly doubt that Joaquin Arias will get much ink in prospect publications over the next few months, possibly a little blurb in Baseball America's Top 10 Yankee Prospect Rankings. However, I think he is a better prospect than the initial glance at his statistics may give you. If you do that, what you see for the 2003 season is an OK batting average, poor on base percentage, and poor slugging percentage. Thankfully, there is more to prospecting than this and that is what makes it so exciting.
In a somewhat similar vein to the Rudy Guillen-Vladimir Guerrero comments from last offseason, Joaquin Arias received comparisons to Alfonso Soriano based on his speed, quick wrists, and similar 6'1'', 160 pound wiry build. So, physically Arias has some potential. He also plays shortstop and by accounts that I have seen, has the defensive tools to remain there.
Despite the physical aspects of being a prospect, one must also produce to some extent. This is my personal view on prospects as it allows one to make safer projections knowing there is evidence supporting their potential to perform at the major league level. With that being said, Joaquin's 2003 line of .266/.306/.343(AVG/OBP/SLG) .223 GPA is very dissapointing. However, as with many statistics, especially those involving prospects (who I tend to believe just have everything click at certain points), the line must be looked at contextually:
.234/.271/.312 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .200 GPA
.323/.359/.401 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .262 GPA
The first line is Joaquin Arias' production through the first 65% of his season with the Yankees Low-A organization. Needless to say, he was not living up to expectations, then, something happened. While some may say it is sample size fluctuation I feel that there is more to it than this because the performance saw Arias' already excellent K rate fall from 11% to an incredible 5%. During this change, Joaquin's walk rate went from a walk once every 17 at bats, to a walk once every 15 at bats. A small change yes, but a small positive one nonetheless. The coupling of an increased walk rate and decreased K rate lead me to believe that Arias definitely brough his game to another level over the course of the last month and a half of the minor league season.
After analyzing the numbers and the physical tools, there is another aspect to look at for Joaquin. He played the entire 2003 season in a full season A-league as an 18 year old. That fact, coupled with decent overall numbers that showed dramatic improvement as the season went on, and good physical tools tell me that while Arias will probably be overlooked this season and next (I wouldn't normally say this, but for the problem that Arias will have a hard time raising eyebrows in the hitter killing Florida State League), he could/should be one of the game's big time prospects come 2005.
¶ 5:50 AM
Saturday, December 27, 2003
THE REPORTS OF HIS DEMISE ARE PREMATURE...Derek Jeter burst onto the scene with a Rookie of the Year 1996 campaign where his GPA was .274, this was followed by GPA's of .268, .293, and .335 in 1999. Following this were GPA's of .307, .290, .273, and most recently .289. There seems to be a general downward trend following the 1999 season. Looking closely at all his other numbers only confirms this:
1996: .314/.370/.430 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .274 GPA
1997: .291/.370/.405 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .268 GPA
1998: .324/.384/.481 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .293 GPA
1999: .349/.438/.552 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .335 GPA
2000: .339/.416/.481 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .307 GPA
2001: .311/.377/.480 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .290 GPA
2002: .297/.373/.421 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .273 GPA
2003: .324/.393/.450 (AVG/OBP/SLG) .289 GPA
So, what have we learned by looking at even more of Jeter's numbers? That yes, these still say he has pretty much been in decline since 1999. But wait, there's more, otherwise I would have had no reason to give this particular thread the name I did:
The first thing that jumps out about this particular set of numbers is that the 161 is just a huge outlier in all of this. It seems rather "fluky". What are these numbers, you may be wondering, these numbers are Jeter's OPS+ over the course of his career. OPS+, to put it as simply as I possibly can, is a player's OPS relative to the league average, for example a player with a 100 OPS+ would be exactly average. Now, unlike the rest of Jeter's offensive numbers which we have already perused, these do not show the same consistent decline following 1999, in fact he has been pretty much maintaining his production, what they do show is that 1999 was completely out of line with anything Jeter ever did before or after that. From this it becomes simple to see that Jeter peaked early, while most players have their best seasons somewhere between 27 and 30, Jeter did that at 24.
Looking even further into the numbers, it actually seems that Jeter has been consistenly improving since 1999. The reason for this is that starting with 2000, his OPS+ has been increasing other than the 2002 campaign. With this knowledge I think it is safe to say that Jeter should have an even more productive season in 2004, and the reports of his demise (which I once believed), are much too early...for the most part:
The numbers on the left are Derek Jeter's range factors over the course of his career, on the right are his zone ratings, I think one could make an argument that while has remained pretty consistent offensivley, he just MIGHT be slipping defensively, but Derek Jeter and his "defense" (if one so chooses to call it that) is an argument for another day.
Wow, two posts in one day, you are all so lucky, let me know what you think about my first article about the majors: firstname.lastname@example.org
¶ 4:44 PM
NOT SO VLAD
Here we go again:
Player A: .260/.311/.414(AVG/OBP/SLG) .243 GPA
Player B: .276/.330/.450(AVG/OBP/SLG) .261 GPA
Player C: .333/.377/.544(AVG/OBP/SLG) .306 GPA
Many Yankee fans who give even the slightest bit of attention to the "farm system", if one can call it that, should recognize the first line as that of Rudy Guillen. Guillen is yet another of baseball's 5-tool prospects. This meaning he has the raw ability needed to hit for average, hit for power, run, throw, and field. The reports on Guillen are that he is ok defensively with a good right fielder's arm, though he plays the majority of his games in center at this time. Most believe he is destined for right field, which he has patrolled in the minors also, this should be a good place for him and he apparently may be able to be at least an average defender there.
Offensively, just looking at Guillen's season in the purest of forms, it is apparent that he could probably serve to improve his walk rate. However, this need is not as drastic because he only struck out in about 18% of his at bats, which leads me to believe that he has some idea of the process of swinging at pitches one likes. Guillen also displayed good raw power as 36% of his hits went for extra bases. This, accompanied with the fact that he has plenty of room to fill out his 6'3'' 180 pound frame, leads me to believe Guillen has some pretty good power potential.
Now here is where the Player B comparison comes in handy, for you see, Player A and Player B are actually one and the same. The difference being, that Player A is Gullen for the entire season, and Player B is Guillen from April 30th to the end of the season. Why April 30th? Because Guillen, for whatever reason, began the season hitting horribly and this is around the time he began to turn things around. Perhaps the greatest difference, and most encouraging part of this transformation is that Guillens BB:K ratio was about .5 from April 30th on, this, combined with his relatively insignificant K rate, leads me to believe that Guillen does have a better understanding of the strike zone than many would give him credit for and I can see him being the type of player to average about 60 or so BBs per season. Guillen's other peripherals remained at about the same ratios as his overall season performance.
I felt that Guillen was somewhat overrated by Baseball America following his Gulf Coast League season*, but with one full season under his belt I now feel much more confident about his abilities. With the usual prospect caveats of health and continued progression, I see Guillen becoming the type of hitter can give a team 30-35 HRs along with a line of .290/.355/.525(AVG/OBP/SLG) .291GPA, all in all a good right fielder.
*The main reason I felt Guillen was overrated was that he was being compared to Vladimir Guerrero, who in his age 19 minor league season put up the line belonging to Player C.
¶ 1:13 AM
Wednesday, December 24, 2003
Because once just wasn't enough, and I liked it so much I might just keep doing it, here is yet another player comparision:
Player A: .234/.291/.412(AVG/OBP/SLG) .234 GPA
Player B: .240/.301/.435(AVG/OBP/SLG) .244 GPA
Ok, no suspense this time. Player A is Drew Henson in 2003, Player B is Drew Henson in 2002, both seasons played for the Columbus Clippers of the AAA International League. As you can see there are slight declines in each of the general offensive categories. In addition to his offensive production, Drew's fielding has seemingly been spotty as evidenced by high error totals, though I do not know how to properly adjust minor league fielding numbers for field quality, park quality, etc. In support of his fielding Baseball America once ranked him as the best defensive 3B in his league.
Now, why would anyone be interested in Drew Henson you may find yourself asking, after you've seen his production or lack thereof. Well, there's another stat that is important when looking at Drew Henson, 46% and 50%. Those are his extra base hit percentages during the last two seasons, '02 and '03 respectively. If everytime you get a base hit there is basically a 50% chance of it going for extra bases, I would have to say you have some incredible power or power potential at the least. That is what Drew Henson possesses that is so enticing to scouts, or at least was. Another thing Drew holds, though not as dearly, is an infamous propensity for the strikeout. This has bothered many a prospect analyst over the years, but I am not particularly concerned with a player's strikeout rate unless he K's alot and walks very little (I will explain this in the future). Unfortunately, for Drew Henson he is this type of high strikeout low walk player, though he definitely made some very real improvement in that aspect of his game this season. After striking out in 32% of his at bats in 2002, Drew was able to cut that rate to a much more manageable 25% this season. Unfortunately, his walk rate still remained poor.
As Drew Henson has aged, but not matured like a fine wine, some scouts have soured on the initial Mike Schmidt/good Troy Glaus comparisons. I am personally of the opinion that this is the last year for Drew Henson to prove himself. He is 24 and this will be his third full season at the AAA level, all objective reasoning and even some non objective, points towards Drew failing this year. However, something tells me that despite it being a one in a million chance, there is still a chance that Drew Henson can fulfill his considerable potential. I feel this way because I have followed him extremely closely for a few seasons now and I have seen him put together some incredibly dominant stretches, followed by almost equally incredibly awful ones. This may be the year he consolidates his good and my statistical reasoning for this is his reduced K rate, and the fact that he was an improved player in the second half of last season. In the wildly unlikely case that I am correct and Drew does put it together, I think he has the potential to at his best be a .270/.330/.520 hitter, which would be pretty good for a 3B.
I've focused on the minors a lot thus far, and I will try and get to the majors in the near future.
¶ 12:47 AM
Tuesday, December 23, 2003
Be back with new post tommorow, just returned from a required weekend retreat.
¶ 1:24 AM
Wednesday, December 17, 2003
Here's something I grew up with as a big fan of Rob Neyer's work:
Player A: .338/.398/.434(AVG/OBP/SLG) .288 GPA
Player B: .321/.374/.469(AVG/OBP/SLG) .286 GPA
Pretty close isn't it? It's made even closer by the fact that both players played in the same leagues at the same position last year. To save the suspense, Player A is Joe Mauer, the 20 year old lefty swinging Minnesota Twins catching phenom who will probably garner the number one slot in most prospect publications this spring. Player B is Dioner Navarro, a 19 year old switch hitting catcher in the Yankees system, who is much less well known than Mauer.
Seeing that Mauer is one of the consensus top prospects in the land, and that Navarro is actually a year younger than him I sometimes wonder why he does not get as much coverage. Defensively, most scouts favor Mauer, but not because Navarro is a slouch behind the plate, he first gained fame as "Pudgito", rather because Mauer is supposed to be THAT good defensively. Granting Mauer the edge in defense, and calling their offense a draw at this point, especially since Navarro is a year younger, I for one will be very interested to see where Dioner ranks among the game's best prospects come spring.
Quite frankly, the only thing that could Dioner back, is that he is 5'10'' and 189 pounds, meaning he does not have as much room as the 6'5'' Mauer to fill out. Despite this Navarro did manage to have 32% of his hits go for extra bases as opposed to Mauer's 22%, and I feel this is a great indicator of at least some form of power to come for Dioner.
I'm not intimating that Navarro is a better prospect than Mauer, but I am saying he should get more respect than he does (Quite frankly, I feel it will be hypocritical if he is not amongst the top 20). Hopefully Steinbrenner holds on to him so he can succeed Jorge Posada when he succumbs to the perils of catching. I definitely feel that Navarro has all-star potential and that in the next decade he and Mauer should battle it out for all star game starts. The reason I can see this future for Navarro is that his minor league numbers are reminiscent of A.J. Pierzynski's minor league numbers, except he has done it at younger ages and with more patience. I think it is fair to say Navarro has the potential to become a player that can be counted on for an average yearly line of .300/.360/.450(AVG/OBP/SLG) with about 15 home runs, which would make him a very valuable catcher.
¶ 2:45 PM
On a somewhat important note, if anyone is knowledgable about the blogger system and can teach me how to add graphics and other trinkets to my page, it'd be great if you could send me an e-mail and let me know how to do that, before I poke my eye out. The e-mail is still email@example.com
¶ 1:25 PM
BACK FOR THE FIRST TIME
Having become addicted to baseball blogs over the course of the past few months and with my aspirations to one day become a baseball general manager, hopefully of the Yankees, I have decided to start my own blog. I'm not much of a writer, but hopefully that won't be held against me. My blog is going to be about baseball in general, but much of the focus will be on the Yankees, I may comment on some other things that I feel merit attention, but otherwise expect to see Yankees, lots of Yankees, and Yankee prospects too (those few that still exist anyway). Well this is the introductory post for now, but I'll come back with something later, hopefully. And just to put it out there now, I will try to update as frequently possible, however if there is a large gap between posts, it is probably a result of school work getting in the way. You contact me firstname.lastname@example.org.
¶ 12:56 PM
Blog about baseball in general and the Yankees and their prospects specifically.